It’s campy. It’s sexy and maybe a little satirical, but hey, that’s what happens when Jews do burlesque.
And while “Caber-Oy: Gelty Pleasures” isn’t the first of its kind, organizers say it’s the first Jewish-themed burlesque show to premiere in Philadelphia.
Amanda Shevitz, Candi Warhol and Ruth Bader Skinsburg are part of the eight-member all-Jewish cast hitting the stage at 8 p.m. at Franky Bradley’s at 1320 Chancellor St. in Center City on Dec. 29. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
“Caber-Oy” is the latest show produced by Galia Godel, who will also serve as the event’s host. The show features more traditional performances mixed in with comedic routines. One act involves belly dancing, while another somehow uses a puppet. One performance retells the story of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s only Jewish student. Expect to see stripteases to klezmer music and “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” by “Weird Al” Yankovic.
“Being Jewish can be fun, it can be communal and it just doesn’t have to focus on the prayers and religious aspect. It can also be cultural,” Godel said. “If they want to laugh, if they want to be delighted, if they want to see their religious culture being involved in a performance aspect instead of just a synagogue, then this will be the right place for them.”
Godel works as the LGBTQ initiative program manager at Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia. She started producing shows in 2017 with some friends under the name Peer Revue: STEM Burlesque. So far, the group has produced three science-themed shows: “Undergrads vs. Ph.D.’s,” “Unexplored Territories” and “Back to School.”
Godel said she used her experiences and lessons learned from those shows to organize “Caber-Oy.” She was inspired to put on a Jewish-themed burlesque show after developing an abundance of Jewish-related jokes, references and puns.
“As a Jewish person, there were so many jokes that I wanted to include that didn’t fit the theme of all these shows,” Godel said. “Being Jewish is so funny often. There’s so much humor, there’s so much food, there’s so many inside jokes, and I realized that I really wanted there to be a show where the point was all of that.”
Godel said she was surprised by the response she got for Jewish-themed acts.
“It was, in fact, a shockingly high number of good, amazing acts,” Godel said. “I got more than twice as many submissions as I had slots, and it was actually really really hard to narrow it down to a balanced show.”
One of those performers is Lauren Roatche of Center City. Under the stage name Lulu Blue, in part a reference to the comic strip “Little Lulu,” she’ll perform a comedic act during “Caber-Oy” filled with magic tricks. Roatche started performing burlesque about three years ago and is a member of the troop Tri-Curious, which hosts a local monthly drag and burlesque show.
Roatche said she enjoys the creative aspect of burlesque. For her, it’s fun to design a costume, make others laugh and collaborate with others on a work of performance art. At “Caber-Oy” she looks forward to networking with the other Jewish performers.
“I love it. This community is amazing. We just have so much fun. It’s fun creating with so many talented people in Philadelphia,” Roatche said. “Burlesque is so many different things now. A lot of people who know burlesque think feathers and lots of rhinestones and it’s like this glamorous thing, and it is for a lot of people, but there’s also this whole other element to it. Like I have a number that I do where I’m dressed up as Tickle Me Elmo, and HoneyTree EvilEye, my friend, does a number as a SEPTA driver. A lot of times it’s just comedy and silly.
“I know when I go to see a burlesque or a drag show that I could be having a horrible terrible day or week, and seeing that makes it all go away for a little bit. Knowing that I could bring that to people, too, is awesome.”